“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10
The First Gulf War was brief but memorable. Some believe that the reason it lasted only three months was because our military was made up largely of young adults who were raised on video games. Their exceptional abilities regarding the technology involved in the air strikes would certainly suggest that as a possible explanation.
Another factor undoubtedly was the Commander of the United States Central Command, Norman Schwarzkopf, a.k.a. “Stormin’ Norman.” A capable leader, he had the deepest respect of his troops, and of the American people in general. His picture was even featured on bubble gum cards – “Gulf War cards.”
As unsettling as war is, it was good to see the country united for once, all wanting the same thing – for the tyrant Saddam Hussein to be defeated quickly and our soldiers to return home. Our military had the support of most of the country. American flags and yellow or red-white-and-blue ribbons were everywhere.
Most importantly, there seemed to be an unusual amount of prayer going out. Signs outside churches said “Pray for Our Troops,” or “God Bless America.” Similar signs in store windows, bumper stickers, and lapel buttons all suggested that many people were praying – or at the very least, were thinking about it. Some people were even taking time to attend prayer vigils.
And we saw evidence that those prayers were being answered in ways were beyond man’s control.
One soldier told a story of how frightened his troop had been the night before they were to cross a mine field. But heavy rains in the night turned the field to mud, making every mine clearly visible by morning.
Especially troubling was when the the air strike was over, and the ground war was about to begin. Since the enemy was believed to have chemical or biological weapons, it was expected that we would lose many of our troops on the ground.
The night before the ground war started, there was a distinct shift in the direction of the wind, and whatever weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein planned to utilize were useless to him.
News videos on TV clearly showed that prisoners in American POW camps fared far better than soldiers in the Iraqui army. While Saddam’s men were barely subsisting on meager rations, newscasts showed POWs held by the Americans, well fed and playing volleyball. It wasn’t surprising that the Iraqi soldiers decided to surrender.
The ground war lasted about 100 hours.
I will never forget the scene on the news. Half-starved, exhausted Iraqi soldiers with their hand on their heads marched single file in a seemingly endless line that wound its way through the desert. Especially poignant was the scene where one soldier fell at the feet of Norman Schwarzkopf weeping and begging for mercy. Schwarzkopf raised him to his feet and kindly reassured him that he would be OK.
Of course, the morale in America was high, and in the stores and at the bank and in the schools, everyone was talking about how wonderful it was that the conflict had been wrapped up so quickly.
About that time I was asked to “share” in the weekly chapel service for the elementary students at the Christian school. I chose the passage in John 2, about the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. At this school that frowned on alcoholic refreshments, I could tell by the teachers’ faces that they were wondering what on earth I was going to “share.”
I pointed out that the servants had done what Jesus told them to do, filling the large jars full of water, then drawing some out, and taking some to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet – the head honcho – declared it the very best wine and wondered why it had not been served sooner. “He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.” (John 2: 9b)
“Did you notice what happened?” I asked the students. “The ‘master of the banquet’ had no idea what was going on. But who knew? The servants – the ones who had obeyed Jesus.
“A lot of people are talking about the success of our military, and some of the ‘lucky breaks’ they had – the overnight rain on the mine field, shift in the wind direction the night before the ground war, and tens of thousands of soldiers surrendering. People in ‘high places’ in government, military, and the news media may not know why America and our allies won the war, but God’s servants – the ones who were praying – know, because God answered our prayers.” I encouraged the kids that if they stayed close to God and obeyed Him, He would share His secrets with them.
Of course, I knew that many of God’s “secrets” were not meant to be kept secret. I loved nothing more than to tell people about what He had done.
I’m not sure why I lost sight of that fact so quickly.
A few days later I was at our neighborhood party store, where the Gulf War bubble gum cards on the counter triggered a conversation about the war among the people there. I remember joining in with a vague comment about how great our military was, and what good leadership we had. As I was walking home, the words I had said echoed in my mind, and it was as though I heard the voice of God chiding me…
“Our military”? REALLY?
I gasped, realizing that I had just given man the credit for what I knew perfectly well GOD had done.
I could sense His grief.
I broke down and cried.
Prayer: Lord, forgive us for not giving credit where it’s due. You are the source of all good things. May we always give You the glory, in Jesus’ name. Amen.